Christie Bridge Flap Worsens: EMS Responders Delayed

Image: Christie Bridge Flap Worsens: EMS Responders Delayed

Thursday, 09 Jan 2014 08:18 AM

By Todd Beamon

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New Jersey emergency personnel faced huge delays in responding to four medical emergencies — including one involving an unconscious 91-year-old woman — because of major gridlock when lanes were closed on the George Washington Bridge in September.

The woman later died at a hospital in Fort Lee, N.J., the local news website NorthJersey.com reports.

As the scandal worsened Thursday, Gov. Chris Christie announced that he would be holding a press conference at 11 a.m.

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Paul Favia, the EMS coordinator for Fort Lee, told Mayor Mark Sokolich in a Sept. 10 letter that response times doubled for responders in two of the four incidents, NorthJersey.com reports.

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The delays occurred Sept. 9-13, when the George Washington Bridge experienced massive gridlock because the access lanes had been closed for a traffic study. Thousands of commuters found themselves stuck in traffic for hours when lanes had been shut down without prior notice.

The spiraling controversy surrounding the closures grew on Wednesday when emails and text messages were published showing that a top aide to Christie had a critical role in the controversial closing of the bridge's lanes.

Critics have charged that the lanes were closed in retaliation because Sokolich, a Democrat, did not support Christie's re-election bid last year.

Though Christie has denied that he or any of his staff had any role in the closings, he said in a statement on Wednesday that he was outraged at the revelations in the emails and text messages and vowed that "people would be held responsible" for the closings.

"What I’ve seen today for the first time is unacceptable," Christie, considered a 2016 presidential candidate, said in a statement. "I am outraged and deeply saddened to learn that not only was I misled by a member of my staff, but this completely inappropriate and unsanctioned conduct was made without my knowledge."

The Newark Star-Ledger, which published the emails and the texts, said in an editorial that Christie was not fit for office — on the state or national level — regardless of his role in the Bridgegate scandal.

The George Washington Bridge, which connects New Jersey with New York, is among the world's busiest — carrying more than 300,000 vehicles on a typical day.

Normally, three of the 12 eastbound toll booths heading into New York from New Jersey on the bridge are set aside for morning rush-hour traffic. But during the September traffic study, the three lanes were cut to one, and the other two lanes were dedicated to regular traffic.

In his letter to Sokolich, Favia told the mayor that EMS crews took seven to nine minutes to arrive at the scene of a car accident in which four people were injured on Sept. 9, the first day of the traffic snarls.

Response times regularly should have been within four minutes, Favia said in the letter, NorthJersey.com reports.

Further, EMS responders took seven minutes to reach the unconscious 91-year-old woman, the website reports. She later died of cardiac arrest.

Favia did not say in his letter that the woman's death was directly caused by the traffic delays, but he noted that "paramedics were delayed due to heavy traffic . . . and had to meet the ambulance en route to the hospital instead of on the scene."

In a third medical emergency that morning, Favia's crew took nearly an hour to get to where someone was experiencing chest pains "due to standstill traffic on Route 46 East."

"The Mutual Aid ambulance . . . and paramedics . . . were also delayed due to the excessive traffic," Favia wrote.

The next morning, a call that should have taken at most four minutes to respond to took seven, NorthJersey.com reports.

In that case, a man also was having chest pains, Favia wrote.

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